Jackson youngsters thank departing teacher for caring


Staff Writer

DAVE BENJAMIN  Former pupils of teacher Troy Henderson (c) thank him for caring as he prepares to leave Jackson for a job in Basking Ridge. See story, page 42. DAVE BENJAMIN Former pupils of teacher Troy Henderson (c) thank him for caring as he prepares to leave Jackson for a job in Basking Ridge. See story, page 42. JACKSON – It’s not often that children throw a party to honor a teacher who taught them in school several years earlier.

However, youngsters from the Goetz School won’t forget their fourth-grade teacher from the Switlik School, who will soon be leaving Jackson.

Recently, those students honored and said thank you to teacher Troy Henderson, who will become a vice principal at the Oak Street Elementary School, Basking Ridge.

A group of Henderson’s former pupils who are now in the fifth and sixth grades, along with their parents, honored him during a gathering at Gianna’s Pizza and Restaurant, West Commodore Boulevard.

Henderson was joined by his wife, Debbie, and two children.

“I’m speechless,” Henderson said. “It’s amazing how many kids are here. I couldn’t imagine in a million years that they would try to organize something like this.”

Henderson, who has been teaching for seven years, said he would do anything to help his students learn and anything to keep their interest level high.

Debbie Henderson said, “He really loves the kids. I think it’s great [what the children did.] He just loves teaching all of them.”

The students, in fact, planned the party.

“We were on the bus and my friend Amber [Thiel, 11] said that our fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Henderson, was going to become a vice principal at some school up north,” said Josie Malfa, 11. “So we had this idea to throw a party for him.”

“We’re giving this party because he was such a great teacher,” Amber said. “He made learning real fun. He played games with us to help us learn, and he brought us outside to learn about science and nature.”

Amber said the outdoor classes helped her classmates improve their “mystery” research skills.

“We had to find stuff,” she said.

Hannah Houde, 12, said Henderson made learning easier.

“He made math easier for me,” said Hannah. “He had flash card games and had a review before tests. He made studying easier, and it helped me to remember.”

Hannah explained that the teacher had a reading program that involved a dog named Sparky. Students would pass the dog around and the holder of the dog would get a chance to read. Sometimes, as a reward for reading, students would get to hold Sparky for a week.

“I remember he gave out tokens when you got a right answer, and then we could use them in his class store,” said Kim Dwyer, 12. “If you got 100 percent on your spelling test, he would pick you to give the words on the next pretest on the following Monday.”

Kim said most of all Henderson was a fair teacher.

“If you did poorly, he would try to help you,” Kim said. “If you did well, he gave you the grade you deserved.”

“We used to have puppet shows on his head,” said Josie. “We used pencils and made up characters.”

Taylor Mackenzie, 11, said she remembers most that Henderson was bald, funny and very nice.

“He doesn’t give out a lot of homework,” Taylor said.

Taylor also remembered that the class used cereal boxes and had to decorate the boxes with information and pictures of famous people.

“Oh yes, we stuck heart stickers on his head for Valentine’s Day,” said Taylor. “He was a good sport and he wore them all day.”

“He made such an impact on the them,” said Lisa Malfa, one of the parents in attendance. “[My daughter] would come home every day learning something new. No other teacher has ever impacted her like this teacher has, and the kids just followed him all through school, knowing what he was doing and who had him the next year. He’s just been great.”